This book was pretty atrocious. To be fair, the author does state at the beginning that it is a work of fiction, so perhaps it isn't fair to take issue with the extremely wide latitude Archer takes with the historical facts. Paths of Glory
is a fictionalized account of the life of George Mallory and the British expeditions to Mount Everest in the 1920s. Some of Archer's fabrications are obviously for dramatic effect. While ridiculous, stories such as having George Mallory climb up the outside of the Eiffel Tower or climbing the bell tower in the Piazza San Marco to impress a girl might have been good stories if there were any truth to them. Other alterations in the history make no sense - why does Archer have the 1922 climbing expedition to Everest making a summit attempt in late June/early July, well into the monsoon season and impossible by any stretch of the imagination? What would have been wrong with using the real dates?
The book's bigger flaw, though, is that despite the embellishments the characters are flat and their speech stilted. Though they are in their 20s and 30s they all call each other "old chap" every other sentence to the point where it is distracting. Maybe this is accurate to the time period, maybe it isn't, but Archer wasn't that worried about accurate details anywhere else in the book, so he could have spared us here. The characters' motivations and thoughts lack substance. The real Mallory and his cohorts were much more complex and articulate. For anyone interested in the actual story, the biographies George Leigh Mallory: A Memoir and The Wildest Dream: The Biography of George Mallory are far more engaging.
The best thing about this book is the title, a phrase from Thomas Gray's poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" ("the paths of glory lead but to the grave"). Unfortunately, it's all downhill from there.